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Monday, April 25, 2011

Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

I can’t remember the name of the atheist who, when he was dying, was asked to consider what question he would ask God…. should it turned out that there was one. He responded that he’d like to ask why He didn’t provide more evidence.

I know Heaven is for real, but I can understand. My favorite philosopher, Peter Kreeft, explains the answer to the above is because God provides enough evidence so that truth-seekers can find Him but not enough to compel everyone to believe. It is the gift of free-will.

This book binds is about a glimpse into eternity that is not enough to satisfy the skeptic but enough to affirm the seeker.

The author, a father and Protestant pastor, tells the story of his four-year-old boy who was on the threshold of death and recovered. Later, the boy would toss out, matter-of-factly, tidbits about what happened when he was in Heaven. After his mention of something that he could not have known other than supernatural means, his father began questioning him. He tried to gather all the information he could without leading him. This book tells the whole story.

Yes, I’m dying (pun intended) to tell you all the anecdotes. But I refuse to ruin the fun if you decide to read it for yourself. I will tell you that my favorite part was not the supernatural insights; it was when the family was brainstorming potential titles for the book and the older sister suggested, “He’s back. But he’s no angel.” Lol

And as the mother of a young boy, I smiled at the part when he asked for a sword like the angels had and God told him he would be too dangerous. Yes, the angels carry swords and for a reason. Yes, I am still going to resist the urge to keep telling you more.

Barely resist.

Espcially to my Catholic parents: I found the book generally safe for tweens and not problematic for the well-catechized. Catholicism comes up twice in the book and the tone is respectful. The little boy actually describes well what Catholics would call the “communion of saints.” (It was not called so in the book.)

The author explains that Catholics have priests as intermediaries in confession while Protestants do confession differently. This is a respectful description from a Protestant perspective. I think it's also an inadequate understanding of the ministerial priesthood, its roots in Scripture, and the role of a priest who stands “in the person of Christ.” Intermediaries better describe what his boy explained happened when others storm the gates of heaven in prayer. Bu this is not a book of apologetics, and I wouldn’t want someone to miss the joy of the read over these differences… though it may be a good time to begin to instruct your tween: there is so much theology to explore here outside this story.

One of the pastor’s parishioners died and there is a scene where the boy is distressed and wants to know if the man knew Jesus so that he would be saved. The language gets a bit Protestant-ese here, and it alludes strongly to the Protestant doctrine of saying the sinner’s prayer and being saved… done deal. The boy is speaking the language of his home, and it’s not entirely clear where the boy’s words end and the father’s begin, but I thought this one spot where a little instruction would be a good idea if your tween is not clear on the catholic vs. protestant view of salvation. My tween and I didn’t get bogged down here; we just agreed with the author in this respect: all need to hear and respond to the gospel. It affects eternity and it’s Such. Good. News!

And so is this story... good news of the love of God …which is true whether or not you believe the boy’s story.



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